As the daughter of immigrants and a four-country (England, Wales, Canada, and the U.S.) immigrant myself, I was accustomed to dealing with challenges. I wasn't prepared to deal with the harsh realities of being a person with a disability.
I learned many doctors, specialists, and nurses don't like sick people.
I learned there is no protocol or recourse if you are misdiagnosed as mentally ill when standard tests don't give a definitive diagnosis.
I learned that if you say you are not mentally ill this is used against you as proof that you are.
Once you are labeled mentally ill you can't challenge it and you will be considered a troublemaker for denying it and noncompliant if you refuse psychiatric care even if your therapist (as in my case) refutes the charges.
Treatment of foreigners and people with accents can be bad.
Treatment of women can be condescending and dismissive.
If you add the label mentally ill you will (as in my case) be denied treatment.
I experienced this repeatedly when seeking medical assistance for my chronic illnesses – (diabetes, asthma, arthritis and MS) and in seeking mental healthcare assistance to deal with the aftermath of being raped. This was true in Seattle, Washington; Washington D.C.; Florida; and in Hampton Roads, Virginia. It wasn't the city or state but the system of healthcare.
I remember the humiliation of being reprimanded for not following barked instructions when a physician asked me to raise my right leg, and the building anxiety when a barrage of questions rendered me speechless. I didn't know aphasia, ataxia, and intention tremors (due to MS) were causing the problem.
During a visit to a new physician I explained to him that I needed him to check my feet as they were bothering me. I am a diabetic and medical protocol is to check the patient's feet at every visit. As the visit neared the ending (of my allotted fifteen minutes) I casually asked him if he was going to look at my feet. He quickly responded “No, because you are mentally ill.”
My neurological difficulties result in my being hyper-sensitive to loud noises, disorganization, information overload, and visual and noisy stimuli. This can lead to a change in my vocal delivery and I can appear irritated. Loud noises, touch, light sensitivity, and too many questions disrupt the delicate balance I have to use in order to get through every moment of every day of my life.
Patients need to have the right to challenge and have removed any erroneous statements in their medical records that diagnose them as mentally ill just because a doctor or a specialist can't identify what is causing a symptom.
Everyone, mentally ill or not, is entitled to fair and just medical treatment. If this is not given there needs to be a recourse that holds physicians and specialists accountable.
It is not okay to systematically deny a person their liberty, their dignity, or their hope and it is not okay to deny access to healthcare and to use the classification of mental illness in a punitive free for all, and as a weapon.